About the Job

A Nurse's Guide on How to Handle Patients

A Nurse's Guide on How to Handle Patients

Being a nurse is not as easy as some people might assume. It requires tons of patience and advanced knowledge on healthcare since there is no room for mistakes when you are dealing with people's lives. Whether you are an aspiring or a seasoned nurse, you can rarely fully get used to dealing with people's challenging behaviors.

There will be times when you just want to burst with all the frustrations building inside you, but as a nurse, your job description entails having infinite patience in handling difficult patients. Of course, this is not easy for beginners, but knowing what to do and how to handle and speak to patients will be of great help in times where you are on the verge of losing control of your own emotions.

Master the Art of Therapeutic Communication

Therapeutic communication is one of the essential skills that a nurse should have. It does not only teach you what to say to a patient, but also how to say it properly. Mastering the art of therapeutic communication can help you in dealing with difficult patients since it comes with techniques that can help you build trust and rapport. Remember that trust is important in every nurse-patient relationship. Establishing trust with your patient makes it easier for you to deal with them whether they are difficult or not.

How to Handle and Speak to Patients 

Knowing how to handle and speak to patients will come in handy in moments when you have to face difficult patients. As a nurse, you cannot choose your patients; you are trained to handle different individuals with different personalities and care needs. One of the most important things that you must have to be successful in handling patients is self-awareness. Self-awareness involves being conscious of your own feelings, desires, and motives. This is important when handling different cases and different personalities, since your personal biases may get in the way of how you treat other people. When faced with a difficult patient, it would help to ask yourself if it is the patient who is being difficult or if there is something about the patient that reminds you of someone who you do not want to care for.

Take a step back and make sure that your personal life does not affect the way you treat your patients. If you had a bad day or perhaps you just had an argument with someone at home, then make sure to take a deep breath and help yourself relax for a bit before dealing with a patient. This is one of the reasons why being a nurse is tough. You cannot bring your problems with you in the workplace. If you are sure that it is not you, then you must know how to handle your difficult patient. Patients that are being labeled as difficult are commonly those who are depressed and angry.

How to Handle and Speak to Patients who are Depressed

Depression is common among patients with illness and injury. It is one of the most frequent cases faced by nurses on a daily basis. The first step in dealing with a depressed patient is knowing how to spot one.

Depression affects patients of all ages, and sometimes, it may not be as easy to recognize. Some signs of depression may include a feeling of helplessness or hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, and loss of mobility. Patients may no longer be interested in things they used to do a lot, and sometimes, they even refuse to move or do things on their own. Other signs to watch out for is a loss of appetite and changes in sleeping patterns. Certain medications may trigger this, but having a watchful eye on these signs may help you spot a depressed patient.

Nurses can help prevent depression by encouraging patients to engage in new hobbies and activities even if they don't feel like joining. A simple encouragement can go a long way in fighting depression. New hobbies can keep the patient entertained and help prevent them from thinking too much about what they can't do.

When dealing with a depressed patient, it would help to talk to them and allow them to express their feelings. Using therapeutic communication is important when talking to them. Ask more open-ended questions to allow the patient to express themselves even more.

Empathy also plays a major role when talking to depressed patients. The ability to understand how the patient feels and not judge them in any way can help a depressed patient feel accepted and secure. Giving emotional support is a great way to help depressed patients feel much better. However, make sure not to give any advice or false reassurances. If the patient asks for any specific details about their progress, remind them that the doctors are the best resources for such information. This will help avoid any misinformation that will affect a patient's trust and might cause them to be more depressed.

The key to dealing with this type of patient is having empathy and letting them know that they are not alone. Making them feel your support can alleviate their feeling of depression.

How to Handle and Speak to Patients who are Angry

Angry patients are the most common cases labeled as difficult. Dealing with angry patients may be tough since nurses are people too, and you also have limitations that may be reached after a few interactions with the same angry patient. Angry patients tend to be disrespectful, rude, and demanding. Thus, it is important to know how to respond to such patients to not tolerate their behavior.

While it is totally understandable for patients to be angry sometimes, there are also instances where they just lose control of their emotions, but it doesn’t mean they intend to disrespect you. Giving them time to think about how they feel can help them realize what they have done wrong. For instance, if a patient starts yelling at you, it is okay to say that you will give them time to calm down, leave them alone in the room and come back after a few minutes. This allows the patient to have some time to cool off before you resume your interaction.

If you have done something wrong that caused your patient to be furious, it does help to apologize genuinely. Be accountable for your mistakes. A simple apology will not only extinguish your patient's anger but can help you earn their respect. However, at times when the patient gets out of control and starts using profanity, you have to set boundaries. This behavior should never be tolerated in a healthcare facility. Tell your patient that this behavior is unacceptable and again, give your patient time to reflect on the situation by leaving them alone so that they can calm down.

Arm yourself with relaxation techniques that can be handy in cases like this. Take a deep breath and consider your patient's situation. Empathy is also important to help you get through such unfortunate situations. Just because your patient yelled at you does not mean that he or she is a bad person. When you know why your patient behaves that way, it will be easier for you assess the best approach to deal with them accordingly.

Having extended help can also be beneficial for you and the patient. If you think the patient needs more help for anger management, it could be helpful to ask for help from other professionals. However, this should be done gracefully and sensitively. Let your patient know why you are seeking for more help so that they would not feel abandoned and get confused. There is nothing wrong with asking for extra help; you cannot do everything by yourself.


Knowing how to handle and speak to patients is essential for nurses and other healthcare personnel who interact with different people every day. Excellent therapeutic communication skills are necessary for dealing with the patients whether they are difficult or not. This helps you earn their trust which is critical in carrying out effective patient care.

Self-awareness is important to rule out personal biases that can cloud your judgment when handling patients, especially the difficult ones. When dealing with a difficult patient, be it a depressed or angry patient, trust and empathy are very important. Always try to understand where the patient is coming from and avoid jumping to conclusions if a patient has been extra difficult.

For depressed patients, it is important to make them feel that they are not alone. Encourage them to engage in activities and hobbies that will keep them entertained. For angry patients, remember to give them some alone time to help them calm down and apologize when needed. Always set boundaries and do not tolerate disrespectful behaviors. Keep in mind that your patients are there because they need your help. No matter how difficult they can sometimes be, there are always reasons behind every behavior.